ADOPTING AUDREY starts with a title card saying that “A surprising amount of what follows is true.” What follows is a slight but nonetheless incisive examination of modern generational divides and the difficulties of communication across the chasm of very different life experiences. ADOPTING AUDREY has its European Premiere at Glasgow Film Festival 2023 and makes its mark as a film that, as it says, feels true.
Audrey (Jena Malone) is adrift. She loses her tedious call-centre job for not being good with people, her boyfriend breaks up with her, and her landlord is pressuring her for the rent. Her only joy in life comes from her phone and an endless carousel of reality TV clips and cute puppy videos on YouTube. A trail of discovery from puppies via dog adoption leads her to videos about adult adoption: the concept of older adults ‘adopting’ younger adults without parents or otherwise alienated from their parents.
Jena Malone (also a producer on the film and also appearing in this year’s Glasgow FrightFest strand in CONSECRATION) drives this early part of the film by tapping into her ability to play a character who has hidden depths lying beneath a cold exterior, the same talent she showed in DONNIE DARKO and THE HUNGER GAMES movies.
After a few unsuccessful adoption dates with older people, Audrey meets Sunny (Emily Kuroda), a cheery but lonely woman married to a cantankerous former Nasa engineer, Otto (Robert Hunger-Bühler). As these three grow closer and become more of an ersatz family, the parenting dynamics that alienated Otto from his biological children start to emerge, and the emotional divide that Audrey and Otto are both desperate to bridge grows wider and wider.
“Robert Hunger-Bühler’s Otto takes over the film with his forceful presence. He’s frequently very funny as a cold Herzogian figure…”
Robert Hunger-Bühler’s Otto takes over the film with his forceful presence. He’s frequently very funny as a cold Herzogian figure, complaining about his son’s alleged inability to cook steak safely or obsessively measuring the wind for Fourth of July fireworks. “God is still dead,” he grimly intones over dinner in contrast to the nominative determinism of his gregarious wife, Sunny. He’s more comfortable with mathematics and rocket engineering than the emotional needs of his children, adopted or otherwise. Still, his retirement has opened gaps between activities, in which he’s found regrets.
“ADOPTING AUDREY’s emotional beats are slight, often landing with less force than they could. However, it still explores something interesting about the generational divide between boomers and millennials…”
ADOPTING AUDREY’s emotional beats are slight, often landing with less force than they could. However, it still explores something interesting about the generational divide between boomers and millennials and how the differences in economic expectations between these age groups lead to different senses of what ‘home’ means. Audrey charmingly exhibits the millennial ennui of late capitalism’s social atomisation, while Otto’s privileged boomer upbringing has left him emotionally immature and unable to connect with his children meaningfully.
The film doesn’t offer easy catharsis in answer to the complexities of relationships between different generations; there is only the tangle of meanings involved in trying to relate despite widely diverging life experiences. “Emotions,” as Otto sadly sighs.